Despite community concerns, Chilliwack Council approves development on Luckakuck Creek

The October 15 council agenda item read; “Zoning Bylaw Amendment Bylaw 2013, No. 3959”

A fairly dry looking agenda item for a creek local residents look to keep from being dried up further.

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The rezoning application is for a proposed development on the current headwaters of Luckakuck Creek.  The application heard at a Council meeting in July was for rezoning from One Family Residential to Townhouse Multi-Family Residential.  In response to concerns of area residents the applicant, developer Larry Les, came back this time with an application for rezoning to Small Lot One Family Residential.  Residents were not appeased.

At this council meeting, like the last, residents stepped up one after another to tell of their objections to this development.  Many spoke of the degradation of Luckakuck Creek.  Long time residents told of buying their homes for the natural beauty of the area; of how there used to be more water and more fish in the creek and how flows and fish have declined over the years as developments proceeded to the south.

Biologist Mike Pearson spoke of the history of Luckakuck Creek.  Of how it used to connect all the way up to the Chilliwack River and how development has affected the Luckakuck and other waterways so that they have been lost from much of where they used to flow.  He explained how the degradation of a waterway moves along its length.  Development dries up the top of the creek, so more development seems reasonable and incrementally the degradation moves along as inexorably as the recession of a glacier.

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Dr. Pearson told of the presence of endangered species in the creek and of how almost all of the Fraser River Coho salmon spawn below Hope, in the small waterways and "ditches" such as we have in Chilliwack.  He spoke of how the creek could be restored and with it the salmon populations that were once so plentiful.

img_5870_300.jpgWaterWealth's Sheila Muxlow gave an impassioned speech about the opportunity before us, to preserve and restore Luckakuck Creek and to incorporate it and others like it into our development plans.  She pointed out how fortunate we are that we have this choice to make.  Many communities are not so blessed with natural beauty and richness. (photo: Craig Hill, The Valley Voice)

Speakers urged Chilliwack Council to guide the development of the area to both restore the Luckakuck headwaters and provide the housing that the city's growing population needs.  They argued that enhancing the natural features that attract people to live here, while developing around them, could achieve neighbourhoods that Chilliwack could be proud of.  Development that would set an example for other communities.

In the end it was for naught.  After listening to all of the objections and suggestions a majority of council members voted for the rezoning and the current plan to fill in the headwaters of Luckakuck Creek.  Several councillors spoke of their responsibility to ensure the "highest and best use of the land" as though the highest and best use could only be defined as that which maximized built square-footage.  Acting Mayor Huttema expressed disappointment that the developer was not building more units on the properties involved.

One shining light was Councillor Lum, who spoke of the possibility of the developer working with area residents and local non-profit organizations to create something exceptional in the development by maximizing the natural potential and using that as a selling feature.  We of WaterWealth were pleased to hear what Councillor Lum had to say on the project.

When people are asked what makes their communities great places to live they respond with stories of natural and cultural features.  Things that enhance the quality of life around their homes.  No one says they live in a great place because it has so much density, so much pavement, so much traffic.  We have the things that make a community great.  Let's build the things a community needs in ways that preserve those things that make the community a great place to love.

And to that end, WaterWealth, area residents and others will continue to work toward a good outcome with this development.  We have received calls and visits from people ready to roll up their sleeves and work on this.  The developer has expressed a desire to not be "the bad guy".  The zoning change was one step in the process.  With everyone putting their heads together we may yet create a development that sets an example for "best and highest use".

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